Re the sticks-and-stones contest, following the old adage that “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.” Remember when some kid would spew off a string of bad words and mean but innocuous insults, and Mom or Grandma would sooth hurt feelings with the little rhyme…which in effect meant “if some kid hits you let me know, but if he calls you a bad name just laugh it off.” Now like as not she might look around for someone to sue.
The North Korean leader Kim Jong-Il has resurrected a good old English word to toss at Donald Trump in insult: “dotard,” an Old-English word from the 14th Century. This cool new word, according to the excited media, spurred linguists and English teachers all over the world to research the word—dotard.
Not that the word “dotard” is especially archaic, not to disappoint media writers that want to insinuate that Kim Jong-Il may be more knowledgeable than Donald Trump. Within arms reach I find a variety of dictionaries, including a nifty little volume called New Oxford Spelling Dictionary: The Writers’ and Editors’ Guide to Spelling and Word Division. Edited by Maurice Waite, published by Oxford University Press, 2014.*
There, right in alphabetical order between the words “dotage” and “dot-com” is— “dotard,” pronounced to rhyme with soldered, watered. The etymology is from the same as: doting, one-who-dotes…as in a doting-grandfather.
It was a fun image to imagine the North Korean leader poring over his archaic English dictionaries searching for insults.
- The most recent Merriam-Webster Dictionary (2004) also features the word “dotard” right in proper order.